You have spent all this time focusing on the marathon, now it is time to focus on you!
Firstly CONGRATULATIONS on running your marathon! This is a massive achievement and something that you should be very proud of.
My name is Vanessa Adams and I am a deep tissue massage therapist at Luck’s Yard Clinic.
It just so happens, I also love running (except for when I am injured, then I sulk!). I am not a marathon runner, I certainly aspire to be one but have done half marathons so understand some the commitment of training and the hardships of injury.
I have also worked at both Brighton and London marathon’s massaging runners after they have finished and loved hearing their stories.
While training for your chosen marathon the focus is exactly that but did you think about the after? How am I going to feel? What do I do if I am injured? What about stretching, and the obvious one, when should I start running again?
Here’s some tips of what you might want to consider in the first hour, day and week after your marathon to speed up your recovery time:
- Food/drink – You probably won’t be able to stomach much but a replacement drink containing carbohydrate and electrolytes will help rebalance the body. Check out your goodie bag for easily digestible high-carb foods and proteins.
- General – Keep warm, you will chill very quickly which won’t help recovery and change clothes as soon as possible.
- Stretch – As soon as you finish the marathon keep moving, a gentle walk to bring your heart rate back to a resting level (this may take up to 15 minutes). Find a space to stretch gently – calves, hamstrings, quads, glutes, arms and shoulders.
- Massage– If post event massage is available, go for it as this will help reduce muscle stiffness and improve the range of motion in your joints.
- Food/drink – A few hours later when you are ready for solid food, eat high carb foods with protein to start replacing energy and repairing muscle damage. However tempting it maybe to have alcohol or greasy junk food, try to resist this as your body needs healthy and nutrient rich foods.
- Travel home/hotel – A gentle walk back to your hotel is one thing but a long car /train journey home might not help the muscles? Try and keep moving. If you travel in a car, take regular breaks to have a gentle walk about. If you journey home is on a train avoid sitting still for the whole journey.
- Bath – Consider an ice bath (I did say consider!). This decreases muscle temperature and helps to reduce inflammation and pain. Afterwards as you warm up, fresh nourished blood flows through the muscles helping to repair muscle damage. If this is something which you have practised pre marathon this is fine, otherwise it should be avoided. Having a cooler bath (but not really cold) may still have some beneficial properties.
- You could also opt for a warm bath (not hot) and add a large mug of Epsom salts (not the fancy bath crystals), then sit and relax for 20-30 minutes. It is thought that magnesium sulphate dissolves into the water which is then absorbed by the body, helping to reduce muscle aches and loosen stiff joints
I know which one I would prefer!
- Rest and relax
- Food/drink – Drink water and eat lots of fruit, carbohydrates and protein as your immune system will be low and muscle damage needs to repair. Try adding anti-inflammatory foods in to your diet such as oily fish, nuts, olive oil and plenty of different coloured vegetables and some dark purple/red fruits such as berries and cherries. Dark green leafy veg contain magnesium which is important for muscle health.
- Sleep – This is when the body restores and repairs itself, don’t worry about going to bed too early.
- Baths – Soak in a nice warm bath for 10 – 15 minutes each day, followed by a good stretching session afterwards. Luck’s Yard Clinic has a free app with lots of exercises for legs and feet.
- Exercise – For the first few days do not attempt to run or cross train. Rest is really important (not slouching on the sofa) but make sure you keep stretching and moving and gentle walks are ideal.
After about 3 days try introducing swimming or a gentle run. Remember this is about movement of your body not fitness so take it easy.
If you don’t feel like exercise don’t beat yourself up, stick with gentle walks but whatever activities you do make sure you stretch several times a day.
- Self-massage – For the first few days do some gentle massage or use a rolling stick lightly.
- Sports/deep tissue massage – If you have aches/pains or soft tissue injuries, seek a professional massage thereapist. They will work with you to improve your recovery, help loosen tight muscles and increase flexibility leaving you feeling more comfortable (if its me you can also tell me all about your marathon too).
After your first week, slowly build your training back up but be guided by how you feel. It can take around 3 weeks for your body to recover from a marathon. If you do too much too soon you increase the risk of becoming injured.
A few other things you might like to know but if you are concerned about a symptom go and see your doctor:
- Swollen legs – Sometimes your legs swell from excessive exercise, if this happens lay on the floor with your legs up against the wall for 10 -15 minutes to help drain the fluid. You will get a nice hamstring stretch to.
- Blisters – To pop or not to pop that is the question? Well it depends where it is. If it is not going to cause you a problem or you are not doing a lot then leave it alone. If it is likely to tear on its own from activities then pop it in a clean environment and apply antiseptic on it afterwards. Make sure you keep it clean and watch for any signs of infection.
- Black/bruised toe nail(s) – Generally leave them alone, the nail will gradually grow out and a new nail will replace it. Wear it with pride but if you would prefer to paint it with nail varnish then stay away from reds and light colours, a topcoat of glitter, deep purples and dark colours work best.
If the toenail is really painful after 24 hours the pressure may need releasing, your doctor or podiatrist can support you with this. We have a podiatrist at Luck’s Yard who have long experience in looking after feet. Also, keep an eye out for any infection over the coming days.
Everyone recovers differently so don’t ignore your body, if need be take further professional advice. It will only benefit you in the long run and make you less susceptible to injury.
You have done the hard work but now it is time to look after your body to ensure that you don’t risk future injuries. Make your memories of your marathon about the day not about the aches and pains.
Vanessa is available to see patients at Luck’s Yard Clinic on Tuesday mornings and alternating Friday and Saturday afternoons. Please call Reception on 01483 527945 to book an appointment.